Ok I realize that tinctures can be scary. The name sounds scary, doesn’t it? Medicinal. Old-fashioned. Sounds like it would be really hard to make (it’s not, but I understand where you’re coming from!)
It turns out though, that infusing herbs in alcohol is one of the best ways to get herbal-goodness (aside from making herbal tea.) So let’s forget about tinctures for the moment – and talk about handcrafted herbal infused liqueurs. (Ahhhh, doesn’t that feel better already?? Now we’re not weird hippies making medicine, we’re making trendy cocktail ingredients!)
Why would you want to make herbal liqueurs?
- They keep forever. Well, almost forever. If you’ve gone to the effort to pick or buy herbs, infusing them in alcohol is a way you can capture their active ingredients to use later. Plus, this is a project you can do once and enjoy throughout the year. Easy peasy.
- You can use them for medicine & health, if you’re into that sort of thing. A splash of spiced, herbal rum (like the one below) or whisky with hot water and lemon would make a good winter drink when you’re feeling under-the-weather. A liqueur with fennel, anise or mint would be a good digestive after a big meal.
- Your friends will be impressed. You can serve cocktails made with your handcrafted liqueurs. Or decant into smaller bottles and give them as gifts.
- It’s super easy, and fun to do … and you can have a tasting party to test the results!
Basic formula for herbal liqueurs
First, start with a strong alcohol. At a minimum, it should be 37% alcohol, higher is better. Generally this means you should use regular vodka, brandy, whisky or rum. Gin is already herbal-infused so I wouldn’t use that as a base (in fact, if you really like gin, you can do some googling on the herbs commonly included in gin, and make your own from a vodka base!)
Use a few tablespoons of dried herbs or spices per cup of alcohol. The sugar is a personal preference … if you want a ‘flavored vodka’ type alcohol that you’ll mix in cocktails, you might not add any sugar. For a digestive, add approx 1 TB of sugar per cup of alcohol. For a sweet liqueur, you might add as much as 1/4 c. sugar per cup of alcohol. I would err on the side of less sugar, as you can always add more later.
For some ideas, check out how we made this chocolate temptation liqueur.
Just put everything in a glass jar and label it. Make sure you write down your recipe somewhere, so you can recreate it next year! Shake well to start to dissolve the sugar. Store in a dark place. Every day (or when you think of it), shake the jar. Let it infuse for a minimum of 1 month. Strain out the bits and pour into a clean bottle. This bottle should sit for at least another month … although in general, the longer you let it sit, the more the flavor will mellow. You might taste it and add more sugar at this point. I tend to start using it right away, and just watch how the flavor changes over time (I’m impatient like that!)
Winter Warmer Rum is my latest liqueur experiment. I had an excess of elderberries and a bottle of unused dark rum, so I decided to get creative. I’m planning to use this rum in hot-toddies, or maybe splashed in mulled wine. Since it contains elderberries, it should have some immune-boosting properties for cold and flu season.
If you have ideas for herbal liqueur flavors, let me know, and we can try them on the blog!
Winter Warmer Rum
500 ml. dark rum
2 cinnamon sticks
1 c. fresh elderberries or 1/2 c. dried elderberries.
1/4 c. demerara sugar
Put everything in a glass bottle. Shake well.
Put bottle in a dark place for one month, shaking it again when you remember. After a month, strain into a new, clean bottle. Let sit for another month to mellow. Drink straight, as a hot toddy, in hot wine or invent your own cocktail!